By Steve Hyde
Kara Potts, a member of Kingsland Baptist, serves as the point person for Kingsland’s mission trips to Cambodia. Kara has led mission teams to serve in Poipet for nearly a decade. Her heart has been to lead others to make a difference in this difficult place.
Poipet is a crowded and dirty border town wedged between Cambodia and Thailand. Human trafficking, drug trafficking and other illegal activities are the norm in Poipet. The missions ministry of Kingsland Baptist is committed to making a difference in this city. Only a long-term strategy reinforced with the gospel of Jesus will transform Poipet.
Kara and her husband Dave have three children, Avery, Cooper, and Carson. Cooper (pictured on the right) recently passed away in an accident. When we heard the news of Cooper’s death, we were devastated.
Tragedy is no stranger to the children and leadership of the Imparting Smiles Children’s homes or the Hope Center where Kara leads teams annually. We know the raw pain she and her family is feeling and we sympathize with them. Siblings of our children get sick and die, mothers and fathers have work-related accidents, step on landmines, contract malaria and often die because of the lack of medical care. The cause of death is seldom “old age.”
We are currently caring for a child with hydrocephalies (enlarged head where brain liquefies and never properly develops). Doctors have told us this child has no hope of survival. However, we choose to love him every moment he is with us.
Poipet, the third largest city on Cambodia, is a dirty and chaotic town that more closely resembles a slum. It is this place that captured Kara’s heart. As Kingsland’s missions ministry’s point person for our partnership, God continues to use Kara to lead teams to come here to love and care for orphaned and abandoned children as well as broken and battered women. Hundreds have come to Christ and thousands of lives impacted through their service.
The Cooper Potts school building was designed to stand out as an oasis of Christ’s love in Poipet. Its white walls and modern architecture cause people to wonder what is so different about this school. The difference is Jesus — unashamedly, Jesus. He is central to every day of ministry in Cambodia whether it be education, health care, helping women who feel they must choose abortion, or feeding a hungry child. It is only through Jesus that any of us have hope for the future.
In the entryway of the school is a painting that my wife Noit and I commissioned. This painting depicts the moment when Cooper was welcomed to his eternal home by Jesus. A short article written by Omar Garcia, Kingsland’s missions pastor, is translated in Khmer and flanks the painting of Cooper.
The story of Cooper Potts and how he loved and lived for Jesus will live on in Poipet. Hundreds of children will soon be enrolled in this primary school, with plans to expand to a full K-12 school in only a few years. They will be inspired by Cooper’s example.
Our school in Poipet is called Antioch, named after the New Testament church that sent out the Apostle Paul to be a missionary. This school will be staffed by individuals who grew up at Imparting Smiles and now have become teachers. They were children when Kara and Kingsland team members first started coming to serve with us. And now, these children are grown and eager to return that love by teaching in a school building dedicated to Cooper’s memory.
The legacy of Cooper Potts is one of a life well lived. Cooper loved others, moved in the direction of people in need, and was always willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That is why his unexpected death impacted so many people. Now, at the Cooper Potts school building, his legacy will continue to proclaim Jesus and raise the next generation of children in Poipet to follow Jesus and love others, like Cooper did.